Two of the top grievances of the Occupy Wall Streeters are seemingly contradictory. The first is that it’s not easy enough to obtain a college education – it’s too expensive, the system is stacked against lower income communities, and so on. The second is that it’s too difficult for college graduates to find jobs.
There is some truth in both complaints. But they also clash with each other. If a college degree can’t get you a job, what’s the point of making it easier to get? President Obama has been touting the education systems of countries like South Korea, which have high percentages of college graduates, on his latest jobs tour. But, as Fred Hiatt writes today, South Koreans are finding that there might be such a thing as too many college graduates:
Much of the pressure arises because Koreans believe their children must go to college to guarantee themselves a middle-class future. As a result, Korea has one of the highest college-going rates of any nation — a category in which, as Obama has complained, the United States has slipped to 12th. More than 60 percent of Koreans ages 25 to 34 have higher educations, compared with about 40 percent in the United States, and the gap is growing.
But Korean officials are alarmed that many graduates are not finding jobs — more than 40 percent in the past year, even though the Korean economy was doing pretty well. That is why President Lee Myung-bak is promoting alternatives.
The idea that too many college graduates can lead to economic instability isn’t new, but it’s been sparking debates recently, as the U.S. deals with high unemployment. And as Occupy Wall Street is proving, this isn’t an issue that will go away quietly on its own.